Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Calidris alpina (breeding plumage)
Meet the Dunlin, a small wading bird that can be found all over the Northern Hemisphere (depending on the time of year). Populations breed in the northern reaches of Europe, Asia, and North America, and migrate south as far as Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America during the winter. The species is highly gregarious, especially in winter, and can be found in massive flocks that number into the thousands. The worldwide population as a whole is estimated to be around 4 million birds.

Dunlins are easy to identify in their breeding plumage. They have bright reddish-brown feathers on their backs and a large black patch on their underside. During the winter their backs turn a duller grey and the underside is pale. Dunlins are also easy to tell apart from other Shorebirds in that their long black bills curve downwards. They use those bills to probe into mud and shallow water for insects, crustaceans, and other small creatures.

When the breeding season rolls around, males are the first ones on the scene. Females get to the nesting ground after, and the birds pair up. They are monogamous during the season, and some pairs will continue to couple up year after year. Males start out the nest building process, scraping a few possible locations into the ground. The female will pick the location she likes the best, finishing the construction at the site.

Young Dunlins are precocial, and are flying after only 3 weeks. Interestingly, the mother usually abandons her family within the first week of hatching, and it is the father who cares for the offspring until they are fully fledged.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Europe, Asia, North America
Size : Length up to 8in (20cm), Wingspan up to 14in (35cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Scolopacidae -- Genus : Calidris -- Species : C. alpina

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